Apparently Luck is not a Lady but rather an aging Holocaust survivor who lives in a casino at the base of what appears to be the White Hills in Arizona. With “Intacto,” director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo tells the story of luck as a power embodied by few, but for those lucky enough to possess it, it is a tradable commodity.

Federico (Eusebio Poncela) had high hopes of one day surpassing his mentor Samuel (Max von Sydow, “The Exorcist”) as the luckiest man in the world. However, when Federico leaves the casino in an attempt to live on his own, Samuel jinxes him – taking all his luck away. Powerless, Federico is dropped by the side of the road with little hope of ever reaping revenge upon Samuel.

Seven years later, in a scene that is reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable,” Tomas (Leonardo Sbaraglia) is the only survivor of a massive plane crash. He is apprehended by the police when they discover stolen money strapped to his unconscious body. Federico, now working for an insurance agency, hears the news and connives his way into Tomas’ hospital room. In exchange for his freedom, Tomas must follow the “luck circuit” with Federico, who is now convinced that he has found the man whose luck outweighs Samuel’s.

Imagine a large forest of trees spaced rather closely together. A line of people stand together with their hands tied behind their backs and blindfolded. The proctor runs out ahead and tells the group to run as fast as they possibly can. As each player’s luck runs out – SMACK – he or she hits a tree. The last person left running is the winner. Just such a game is played on this twisted gambling circuit, initially for priceless possessions, but then for the very lives of others.

All of the players are trying to eventually gain enough luck that they can take on Samuel, “the fucking God of chance,” in an intense game of Russian roulette where all but one chamber is full. Samuel hasn’t lost to anyone in 30-some years, but when Tomas raises the stakes to get his girlfriend back, the gamble becomes the greatest of all.

“Intacto” is visually stunning in its presentation of this dark world of alternative gambling. Fresnadillo’s direction is superb in his ability to convey shocking moments including car crashes, insect attacks and camera bulbs becoming gunshots – he keeps you cringing and desperately wanting more throughout the entire film.

Surrealistically, the film does not point to any specific locale, or give a definite setting. This attribute intensifies the dream-like qualities of this particular film and makes one identify and reject the pro-filmic world at the same time, thus adding the awesome element: believability.

3 Stars

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